NJ 2C:20-25. Computer crimes.

Defending NJ 2C:20-25.  Computer crimes.

After you read the following NJ Criminal Statute (Computer crimes) you may decide that you need the help of a lawyer, or need a legal interpretation of how this statute applies to your case.  The firm of Villani & DeLuca has experienced criminal lawyers with over 20 years of experience, including a former municipal prosecutor.  Call the number above for a free 24×7 phone consultation.

Summary of Computer Criminal Activity Charges

Because the law is written in such a manner that “unintended consequences” could result in very serious charges, it’s extremely important to secure aggressive legal representation immediately if you believe you are involved in an investigation related to computer crime.

New Jersey Statute N.J.S.A. 2C:20-25 defines computer-related criminal activity and dictates the severity of charges ranging from fourth degree to first degree.  It is against the law when a person purposely or knowingly, and without appropriate level of authorization, accesses data, software or hardware in any of the following manners: altering, damaging, or destroying such materials; impairing others’ rightful access to computer services; accessing such materials with the purpose of defrauding someone or stealing personal information; obtaining, taking, copying or using such materials; and lastly accessing and recklessly altering such materials.

What Needs to be Proven for a Computer Crime Conviction

To convict a person of computer criminal activity, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person purposely or knowingly and without authorization, or in excess of their authorization, did in fact access, alter or obtain the subject data, software or hardware.  The State must prove that the person charged did not have the appropriate authorization to access, alter or obtain the data.

To “purposely” do something, it means that it was the defendant’s objective to access, alter or obtain the data, software or hardware.  In order to prove that a person acted “knowingly,” it must be shown that he or she was practically certain that his or her actions would access, alter or obtain the data, software or computer hardware.

Possible Defenses to Computer Crime

To defeat a conviction for a computer-related crime, it could be argued that the person’s computer knowledge is limited and his or her actions were taken accidentally, without the purpose nor objective to access, alter or obtain the data, software or hardware.  It could also be argued that the person charged reasonably believed that he or she had the proper authorization to access, alter, or obtain the subject materials.

What’s at Risk if Found Guilty of Computer Crime in NJ

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-25 delineates the degree at which offenses will be charged, depending on which subsection a defendant is convicted under.  Violations of subsections (a) and (c) are third degree crimes, but if the value of damages exceeds $5,000, they can be charged with a second degree crime.  A violation of subsection (b) is a second degree crime.  A violation of subsection (e) is a third degree crime, but if it contains personal identifying information, medical diagnoses, any governmental records, or damages exceed $5,000, it can be charged as a second degree offense. Violation of subsection (f) is a crime of the fourth degree, or third if the value exceeds $5,000.

NJ Statute: 2C:20-25.  Computer criminal activity; degree of crime; sentencing.

A person is guilty of computer criminal activity if the person purposely or knowingly and without authorization, or in excess of authorization:

a.Accesses any data, data base, computer storage medium, computer program, computer software, computer equipment, computer, computer system or computer network;

b.Alters, damages or destroys any data, data base, computer, computer storage medium, computer program, computer software, computer system or computer network, or denies, disrupts or impairs computer services, including access to any part of the Internet, that are available to any other user of the computer services;

c.Accesses or attempts to access any data, data base, computer, computer storage medium, computer program, computer software, computer equipment, computer system or computer network for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud, or to obtain services, property, personal identifying information, or money, from the owner of a computer or any third party;

d. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2003, c.39).

e.Obtains, takes, copies or uses any data, data base, computer program, computer software, personal identifying information, or other information stored in a computer, computer network, computer system, computer equipment or computer storage medium; or

f.Accesses and recklessly alters, damages or destroys any data, data base, computer, computer storage medium, computer program, computer software, computer equipment, computer system or computer network.

g.A violation of subsection a. of this section is a crime of the third degree.  A violation of subsection b. is a crime of the second degree.  A violation of subsection c. is a crime of the third degree, except that it is a crime of the second degree if the value of the services, property, personal identifying information, or money obtained or sought to be obtained exceeds $5,000.  A violation of subsection e. is a crime of the third degree, except that it is a crime of the second degree if the data, data base, computer program, computer software, or information:

(1)is or contains personal identifying information, medical diagnoses, treatments or other medical information concerning an identifiable person;

(2)is or contains governmental records or other information that is protected from disclosure by law, court order or rule of court; or

(3)has a value exceeding $5,000.

A violation of subsection f. is a crime of the fourth degree, except that it is a crime of the third degree if the value of the damage exceeds $5,000.

A violation of any subsection of this section is a crime of the first degree if the offense results in:

(1)a substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power, or other public service.  The term “substantial interruption or impairment” shall mean such interruption or impairment that:

(a)affects 10 or more structures or habitations;

(b)lasts for two or more hours; or

(c)creates a risk of death or significant bodily injury to any person;

(2)damages or loss in excess of $250,000; or

(3)significant bodily injury to any person.

Every sentence of imprisonment for a crime of the first degree committed in violation of this section shall include a minimum term of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed, during which term the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.

h.Every sentence imposed upon a conviction pursuant to this section shall, if the victim is a government agency, include a period of imprisonment. The period of imprisonment shall include a minimum term of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed, during which term the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.  The victim shall be deemed to be a government agency if a computer, computer network, computer storage medium, computer system, computer equipment, computer program, computer software, computer data or data base that is a subject of the crime is owned, operated or maintained by or on behalf of a governmental agency or unit of State or local government or a public authority.  The defendant shall be strictly liable under this subsection and it shall not be a defense that the defendant did not know or intend that the victim was a government agency, or that the defendant intended that there be other victims of the crime.

A violation of any subsection of this section shall be a distinct offense from a violation of any other subsection of this section, and a conviction for a violation of any subsection of this section shall not merge with a conviction for a violation of any other subsection of this section or section 10 of P.L.1984, c.184 (C.2C:20-31), or for conspiring or attempting to violate any subsection of this section or section 10 of P.L.1984, c.184 (C.2C:20-31), and a separate sentence shall be imposed for each such conviction.

When a violation of any subsection of this section involves an offense committed against a person under 18 years of age, the violation shall constitute an aggravating circumstance to be considered by the court when determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed.

L.1984,c.184,s.4; amended 2003, c.39, s.3.

AKA: NJ Criminal Charge 2C:20-25, Violation 2C:20-25, Offense 2C:20-25

Disclaimer: A copy of this statute has been provided for your information. This wording was current from the NJ website lis.njleg.state.nj.us as of August 2012.

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